Abengoa reports that it’s on schedule to secure 100% of the biomass raw material needed for the Hugoton, KS, cellulosic ethanol plant it plans to open in 2013.

The company has signed contracts with several local biomass producers, and is currently in talks with others, to obtain the required annual supply of 315,000 tons of cellulosic biomass by the end of 2011. Upon start-up, the facility will convert about 315,000 dry tons per year of crop residue and cellulosic energy crops to 25 million gallons of ethanol, while also generating 25 megawatts of electrical power, enough to power the ethanol conversion process.

Recognizing that obtaining the annual supply of cellulosic biomass was key for the successful operation of the plant, the company says in a press release that it took several critical steps early in the project’s conception to ensure that a reliable feedstock supply system was in place. The steps included:

  • Determining that adequate amounts of biomass were available within an economical transportation distance of the projected facility site, and making sure that the supply would be available during normal fluctuations of weather and different growing conditions.
  • Ensuring that the biomass could be harvested in a sustainable manner over the projected lifetime of the project, in a way that complies with the accepted crop production practices of the area.
  • Engaging in extensive interactions with local producers to ensure that the biomass harvest would meet their expectations, as well as those of Abengoa, in terms of quantity, quality and cost.

Based on these efforts, Abengoa will begin harvesting biomass in the fall of 2011 and will continue in the summer and fall of 2012. It has also conducted testing to determine the best procedures for harvesting the biomass in a sustainable manner that meets or exceeds Natural Resources Conservation Service minimum standards for the prevention of soil erosion. From 2008 to 2010, various technologies for harvesting biomass were evaluated for several other parameters, including harvest and transportation efficiency and minimizing extraneous material in the harvested biomass.

Construction of the Hugoton plant will start this summer and full commercial operation is expected in the first half of 2013. It’s scheduled to be Abengoa’s first second-generation facility and seventh bioethanol facility in the U.S., bringing the company's total biofuel production in the country to more than 400 million gallons.